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I admire Abby Sunderland …. she is amazing ….

June 10, 2010

I believe she is strong and will survive this …. all prayers be with her!

By: Pete Thomas,

Teen sailor Abby Sunderland, who today made international headlines by requesting a rescue via various distress-signal units, is in a portion of the southern Indian Ocean that is so remote it could take nearly two days for a ship to reach her position.

Sunderland, 16, had been a little past the halfway point in an attempt to become the youngest person to sail around the world alone.

Helicopters reportedly do not have the fuel capacity to reach her but a crew aboard an airplane from Australia had expected to arrive at the position issued via her EPIRB satellite positioning devices at daybreak (she’s 11 hours ahead of Pacific Daylight Time). But the crew aboard the plane would be unable to do much other than keep track of the vessel and talk to Abby via marine radio, if it can get close enough and the radio is functional, and if Abby is able to operate the radio.

At 8 p.m. (PDT) the Sunderland family sent out a prayer request to a group of Abby’s supporters saying two beacons she had activated — one on her survival suit or life jacket, and another on the 40-foot sailboat — were tracking together. They took that to mean she was still aboard the vessel.

“They are tracking together so that means that Abby is still on the boat,” the statement procvlaimed.

The Sunderlands added, however: “Our fear is that the boat has capsized and that it is taking on water. It will be very difficult to rescue her if she is capsized.

“The boat is equipped with an escape hatch that she can exit from but it will be very difficult in the water she is experiencing.”

The Sunderlands added that the Australian search-and-rescue airplane trying to reach her position was not expected to arrive until at least 10 p.m. (PDT).

That plane left Perth earlier Thursday. Three vessels reportedly are en route from the French territory of Reunion Island. The sailor’s position is roughly 2,000-plus miles from Africa and Australia.

It was not clear when the vessels left, but it would take a day for the nearest ship to reach the area. Reunion Island is off Madagascar along the east coast of Africa.

The Sunderland parents, Laurence and Marianne, had not met with reporters in front of their home in Thousand Oaks, Calif. But this afternoon they issued an update on Abby’s blog.

It stated that two EPIRB units were activated manually. A water-activated EPIRB unit designed to activate automatically ata depth of 15 feet did not activate, which implies the vessel, named, Wild Eyes, is floating.

Jeff Casher, a spokesman for the Sunderlands, did meet with reporters and outlined three possible scenarios and reasons she issued distress signals: The boat was de-masted, rendering Abby unable to sail; the vessel capsized, or she became seriously injured with all the bouncing around.

Abby is wearing a survival suit designed for emergency situations. The water temperature in the area is in the low to mid-50s, according to recent reports.

Sean Collins, a weather expert and founder of the surf-forecasting business Surfline, studied the weather in the area and said an “extra tropical” storm had developed. Collins explained that the storm Abby had been dealing with in previous days became supercharged “when a large mass of warm tropical air from the Madagascar area was sucked down into the cold air of the storm.” Collins liked that to throwing gasoline on fire.

Collins, a lifelong sailor who has competed in long-distance races and endured winds up to 80 knots, said possible scenarios in these extreme conditions include “pitch-poling,” which is when a boat flips end-over-end. Boats in heavy seas also have “submarined,” which entails riding down a wave and driving nose-first into the water, possibly flipping.

“The fact that she was able to manually activate two separate emergency beacons is actually a very good sign,” Collins said.

Of the aircraft en route to her position the Sunderlands stated in the blog post: “Hopefully, they will be able to assess her situation and report back to us.”

Earlier Thursday, Zac Sunderland, who last July completed a solo-circumnavigation of the planet in a 36-foot sailboat, issued this comment to KNX radio in Los Angeles: “We’re still trying to figure out the rescue situation. Right now we’re trying to figure out if there is any faster way.”

The Sunderlands are in touch with American, French and Australian search-and-rescue authorities.

Abby, a high-school junior who had dreamed of sailing around the world since she was 13, has a big red heart painted on the bottom of her white keel. If her vessel has capsized, maybe this will make her more visible.

— Image of Abby Sunderland courtesy of Lisa Gizara/Gizara Arts


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